When the BP oil spill was in full force last year, I was disappointed about the way the spill was being portrayed as a one-off disaster, instead of what it really was: the latest chapter in the degradation of the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, we had to clean up the spill, but we also had to look at the bigger picture of agricultural pollution, dredging wetlands to create canals for the oil and petrochemicals industries, and other actions that endangered coastal and marine ecosystems. These observations were necessary for the environmental health of the Gulf, as well as its continued productivity for sustainable human use.
The idea of the value of nature traditionally involves intangibles and aesthetics: beauty, vitality, inspiration, etc. But, of course, natural systems provide more concrete value, too. We almost always think of that economic value in terms of what we can get out of these systems: lumber, minerals, food, etc… but, when intact, they often provide even an even greater “bang for the buck.”
US presidents golfing on vacation is hardly news, but President Obama’s choice of a course for his ten days of family time in Martha’s Vineyard this month did make the New York Times… because the Vineyard Golf Club “is thought to be the only completely organic golf course in the United States…”
Last week, King Carl-Gustav of Sweden presided over the ceremonial opening of the country’s first marine national park, Kosterhavet. If you’re like me, you tend to associate the phrase “national park” with mountains, forests, canyons, and even geysers… but countries around the world recognize the value of the coastal and marine ecosystems, and are designating similar protected areas. A quick search yielded these treasures: